Palestinians: Final Status Should Be Agreed on Within Eight Months

Haaretz has obtained a copy of the joint document as discussed by the Israeli and Palestinian official representatives, and a Palestinian source told the paper he believes the gaps between the two sides are still great. The source, however, said he did not know what changes had been inserted since November 17, the day the document was dated.

The source said the opening stance by the PLO as it appears in the Palestinian proposals in the draft is weak and gives up on demands that were once presented as a counterweight to Israeli demands on the struggle against terror, for example.

The source said the main flaw in the Palestinian formulations was that there is no paragraph clearly stating that the construction of settlements will be frozen during the negotiations.

The document consists of a number of sections, mainly declarative, on which the two teams had reached agreement, but mainly includes parallel paragraphs proposed by each side and marked "I" for Israel and "P" for Palestinian. The Palestinians called the draft a "joint document" and not a joint declaration.

The document, dated November 17 at the King David Hotel, was drafted by Shalom Turjeman and Tal Becker for Israel and Saeb Erekat and Zeinah Salahi for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian portion of the draft does not include a demand to dismantle roadblocks or the separation barrier, and does not mention the decision by the Internation Court of Justice in The Hague with regard to the barrier.

The PLO also makes no reference to the situation in the Gaza Strip and does not demand that the crossings be opened to ease the lives of the people there. These omissions of what were accepted opening principles and key Palestinians stances are causing discontent among senior Palestinian leaders, the source said.

The document begins with a preamble stating its goals, and contains a section on the negotiations, on the road map and on the function of the international community and the countries in the region. It also discusses a follow-up to the negotiations (only the Palestinians proposed this section) and contains a closing paragraph.

The Palestinian draft makes do with a general statement, which also appeared in the interim agreement in 1995, that neither side would initiate steps that would change the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is the formulation the Palestinians cite in arguing that construction in the settlements contradicts the Oslo Accords. The only addition to this section is a reference to East Jerusalem as part of the West Bank.

One major point of contention as revealed by the draft is the question of a timetable for ending negotiations. The Palestinians write that the parties should reach an agreement within eight months from the Annapolis conference, and no later than the end of U.S. President George W. Bush's term in office. The Israeli position as it appears in the November 17 draft states specifically "no agreement to timeline."

The Palestinians write that the negotiations will be based on a series of previous agreements and accepted principles. According to the Israelis, the negotiations will be "guided" by these agreements. The Palestinians believe that the Israeli stance will allow Israel to deviate and change the previous agreements as it sees fit.

Among the terms of reference for the negotiations, the Palestinians include the 2002 Arab peace initiative, international law and the principle of the "establishment of the sovereign independent State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel." They also include United Nations resolution 194 on the Palestinian right of return.

Israel does not accept these terms of reference, but notes the Quartet's demands, which led in 2006 to a boycott of the Hamas government and include recognition of Israel and a denouncement of terror.

The Palestinians oppose a number of statements appearing in the Israeli draft in the preamble proposals: Israel's formulation that the realization of self-determination is of "each people in their own territory," and that Israel is "the homeland for the Jewish people and Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian people."

The Palestinians also oppose the mention of the word "terrorism" in the sentence discussing "bringing an end to incitement, extremism, terror and violence." They also oppose including in the joint document the phrase "secure the release of [captured soldier] Gilad Shalit."

The section on the road map contains the original draft of the American proposal for the joint document, and consists of five points.

But the Palestinian source said the Americans have withdrawn the five points because of Israel's opposition to some of them. Israel is said to be opposed to the "immediate and parallel" implementation of the road map and the establishment of an American-Palestinian-Israeli committee to monitor implementation. It also opposes the U.S. as "monitor and judge" of each party as it tries to fulfill its obligations.

The main area of relative agreement is in the function of the international community and the countries in the region. But the Palestinians oppose the statement "steady improvement of regional ties with Israel, and the proportion of regional cooperation on issues of common concern."

The section entitled "Follow-Up Mechanism" is an entirely Palestinian proposal. They propose the immediate establishment of negotiating committees to begin operating on the second day of the Annapolis summit and the calling of an international conference every three months to review progress.

As the Palestinians had promised the media, in the concluding paragraph the Palestinians propose that all Palestinian prisoners be released with the signing of the treaty. They also refer to improving the daily lives and welfare of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian source said the framers of the Palestinian draft were adopting "a vague Israeli formulation" in writing: "Israel will make every effort to improve the daily lives and advance the welfare of the Palestinian population pending the full implementation of the treaty," instead of clear-cut demands to remove roadblocks, end travel restrictions and dismantle the separation fence.

In the concluding paragraph an Israeli comment appears "Note: Outstanding question for consideration -- How to address the situation in Gaza in the document?"